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Molly-Rae Walker with Broccoli. Photo by Prairie Pulse Photography.

Vet student’s best soul-food is Broccoli

To say third-year veterinary student Molly-Rae Walker keeps busy would be an understatement. In addition to her studies at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM), she takes part in a myriad of extra-curricular and volunteer activities. But one of the causes closest to her heart is taking care of Broccoli, her 16-month-old foster dog.

Walker, who is originally from Qualicum Beach, B.C., began volunteering in high school while taking part in a leadership class and has since made volunteering a central part of her life.

“There are a lot of people — and animals — in the world that aren’t able to help themselves, just as there are a lot of people that are very fortunate to live happy and healthy lives. I think that sharing any knowledge, time or money we can spare to help those in need bridges the gap … and makes the world a better place,” says Walker.

Five months ago Walker began taking care of Broccoli after a WCVM faculty member sent an email out to see if anyone could foster the young black Labrador retriever.

Broccoli had been surrendered to the Saskatoon SPCA in August 2018 after he was hit by a car. He was brought to the college’s Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC) with a fractured femur, and surgeons worked to repair his leg by placing a bone plate and a pin in his femur.

A week after Broccoli’s first surgery, one of the screws in his bone plate broke and had to undergo another surgery.

“He was quite a bouncy puppy and kept trying to escape from his kennel,” says Walker.

While rescue organizations typically opt to amputate a pet’s leg when the break is so severe, the Saskatoon SPCA decided to try and fix Broccoli’s leg because he was so young. The college’s Good Samaritan Fund helped with the cost of his surgeries. 

“Amputation would have had a dramatic effect on his life,” says Walker. She says that in addition to his broken leg, Broccoli was very thin and in poor body condition. He also suffered severe separation anxiety.

“I thought it would be a good way to learn more about rehabilitative medicine, plus I’d be helping an animal in need,” she says.

After a meeting with the SPCA, Walker took Broccoli home, beginning an intense schedule of short walks, rehabilitation and training.

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Broccoli enjoys a snowy walk. Photo by Molly-Rae Walker.

Broccoli required icing, massage and heat to his leg, as well as medication and rehabilitation sessions three times daily. In the beginning, Walker had to carry him up and down the stairs of her basement apartment.

“I woke up really early every day,” she says of the rigorous schedule.

While Broccoli was cleared to begin regular movement in November 2018, Walker and the VMC’s rehabilitation team realized he wasn’t improving. He went for a third surgery to remove the bone plate in his leg in early December.

“After his third surgery, I was on the verge of a breakdown,” says Walker. “We had come so far and it was 20 steps backwards with his leg and his behaviour.”

After the surgery, Broccoli and Walker went back to work with an intensive schedule of exercises, obedience training, hydrotherapy at Saskatoon WaterPaws, and rehabilitation at the VMC.

At the end of January, Broccoli was cleared by the VMC’s rehabilitation team to start returning to full function. He’s now enjoying regular trips to the dog park.

“We all thought he would be a ‘foster dog’ for four to six weeks – but he had some complications along his journey of recovery, and here we are, five months later.”

Taking care of Broccoli has been life changing for Walker, who chronicles his adventures through a heartwarming Instagram account (@adventuresofbroccoli). By scrolling through the photos, you can watch Broccoli’s transformation into a bright-eyed, energetic dog — thanks to Walker’s love and attention.

“It has cost a lot of money, and it’s very time consuming, but it’s made me so much happier,” says Walker. “It gives me a reason to wake up in the morning and motivates me to be better at everything.”

At the beginning of March, Walker decided to make it official, and adopted Broccoli. From foster pup to forever home, their story is an amazing example of how giving back can change lives. 

The WCVM's Good Samaritan Fund supports medical treatment for animals that are ownerless or owned by clients who can not pay for care due to circumstances beyond their control. In some instances, these medical cases also present a teaching opportunity for veterinary students at the WCVM. Click this link for more information about donating to the Good Samaritan Fund. 

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